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January 20, 2018 / 5:34 am EST


SaddlehornSep 5, 2011
Promoting Green Living the Cowboy Way

If you’ve ever watched a large development go up in what was once open countryside or a wooded acreage, you may understand the panic Doug Averill felt when he learned a developer bought 440 acres located on a ridge near Bigfork, Montana. Doug is a lifelong resident of the Bigfork community and his family had settled there in the 1920’s, living true to the cowboy way of life: family, community, and nature. However, instead of helplessly watching while a proposed 1,200 condos were built on the property overlooking the town of Bigfork and Flathead Lake, Averill vowed to buy the land himself despite not having the money to pay the price the developer was asking in order to relinquish the property. In order to get investors, Averill had to come up with his own plan to develop the area. In doing so, he helped create one of the most environmentally progressive communities in the world…welcome to Saddlehorn.


A visit to the Bigfork area of Montana is a treat for the senses. The air is clean and crisp. The vistas over Flathead Lake are breathtaking. Riding a horse down a winding trail, while wearing worn leather chaps and sturdy boots, is an unforgettable experience. Here, the Old West is alive and thriving, with the people, sights and sounds that make a community feel like home. The creators of the Saddlehorn community wanted a development that fit the land, fit the people and fit the purpose of life in Northern Montana. Acres of condos and development properties just didn’t fit into the picture because living here is a way of life. Doug Averill understood this when he and his friend Jim Frizzell decided to convince investors to buy their vision of a community that was unlike any attempted before. They were so successful that Saddlehorn is now considered the epitome of how to develop properties that are right for families, for communities and for the land that sustains them.


The Saddlehorn community was planned with the utmost care and concern for family living, while at the same time creating the least impact on the environment. This is one reason why “homesteads,” as the homes are referred to, are only allowed to be a maximum of 4,000 square feet. No McMansions are allowed here! Another reason for this decision is to promote the spirit of a close-knit community where people know and rely on each other for friendship and support. Saddlehorn has carefully chosen three companies to build the cabin, cottage, or camp-style homes featured in the development. Each home will be built with eco-consciousness in mind with low impact on the land a major concern. Must have’s for each home include the use of natural materials and a pioneer-based look and feel. According to Saddlehorn, “Employing the highest standards for responsible, sustainable development through its low carbon design, construction and operating practices, Saddlehorn strives to be the nation’s first sustainable mountain community.” When finished, Saddlehorn will consist of 320 units on 800 acres located immediately south of Bigfork.


Being a sustainable community means more than building houses to the creators of Saddlehorn. In fact, the Saddlehorn vision extends to the way of life of its residents and the impact and integration the Saddlehorn residents will have with the existing community of Bigfork. Also, to truly promote the healthy lifestyle and community feel, Saddlehorn will incorporate miles of hiking and biking trails, a Mountain Lodge, Trading Post, Marina, Equestrian center, Low impact Shuttle, and much more. Part of the mission of Saddlehorn is to preserve the natural beauty of Montana and create a low environmental impact community. One way they have done this is by preserving more than 50% of the Saddlehorn acreage for parkland and trails. This is also accomplished by blending the community seamlessly into the landscape. In fact, the design of Saddlehorn is such that structures are built to be almost invisible from below, which is a far cry from the plans held by the previous developer, which had a traditional approach of clearing the land and making it fit the development plans. Saddlehorn will instead become a model for green building in the rural West, and although the site couldn’t secure certification in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), because the program is geared only toward urban and suburban settings, it could serve as a model for rural LEED certification programs in the future.


For a great interactive website experience and to learn more about Saddlehorn, visit

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